Norman Butchers Letters

 

 

18629   L/Cpl Norman Butcher, MM

1st Battalion The Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment)

Killed in Action  5th March 1917

Commemorated on The Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Norman was the son of Jesse and Florence Eliza Butcher of 29, Station Road, Clowne, Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

Soldiers Died in the Great War has the following -

BUTCHER - Norman, born Thornleigh York's, enlisted - Chesterfield Derby's,  abode - Mansfield Notts, no 18629, L/Cpl,     k in a, F & F   5/3/17.

 

 

Norman's name on the Thiepval memorial to the Missing

Norman like all soldiers wrote home on  a regular basis.  Below are some of those letters which give an idea of a mans thoughts whilst on active service in France and Flanders during the Great War.  He talks of everyday things and life in the trenches.  Yet he lived an extraordinary life and gave that life willingly for his Mates, King and Country.

May he and all his mates be remembered forever and may they rest peacefully in France.

My thanks go to Barbara Turner for sending me copies of the letters and allowing me to put them on the website.

Norman's mother was Alice who had died by WW1. The CWGC certificate has his step-mother  Florence.

The letters are down as written. Written in a dug out or dark billet, punctuation was probably the last thing on Norman's mind.

Firstly I will put in  a piece written by Norman's brother Ronald who wrote of his brothers service life.

R Butcher

29 Station Rd

Clowne

14.1.1917

Norman Butcher at the age of 19 years enlisted in the third Battalion Sherwood Foresters Notts and Derby Regiment on or about November 10th 1914 as a Private. Was sent to Derby and after being there for a week came home on leave for the weekend and going back to Derby the third Battalion was sent to Plymouth in Devonshire  in few days later.  After being at Plymouth for about five months he was sent to France on March 18th 1915. Soon after landing in France he was transferred to the 1st Batt Sherwood Foresters. Soon after he was in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle which village the British took from the Germans. After the Battle of Neuve Chapelle his Regiment fought at La Basses, Bois Grenier, Lailly, Steenwerck, Festubert and Armentieres, during this time he has been a stretcher bearer. He came home on leave in January the 28th 1916 and went back to France on Wednesday February 2nd 1916. Soon after getting back to Armentieres his Battalion moved down the battle line to Louchez which part of the front British took over from the French so the French would have more troops to hold back the Germans at Verdun which place the Germans were trying to take. On the way from Armentieres  to Louchez his Batt passed through Careney, Ablain, St Nazaire, Bouvigue, Boyelle and the labyrinths at Louchez. these are only a few of the places his Batt passed through. When the Battle of the Somme started on 1st July his Batt was sent there. The Sherwood's took some trenches from the Germans in July in the Some battle. His Batt fought at Comtal Maison on the Somme where three Battalions of Prussian Guards were defeated by the British.  In the Hollenzollern (Hohenzollern) Redoubt near Loos on the night of August the 9th 1916 the 1st Batt Sherwood Foresters were holding an advance sap which led up the edge of a large mine crater His Coy were on one side of the crater and the Germans on the other side about 15 yards away on, one of the men went onto the lip of the crater to put some wire and was immediately shot down and his body rolled down the side of the crater. Although it was a brilliant moonlight night Norman crawled out to him and fastened a rope on him and thus retrieved his body from within a few yards of the enemy's wire. This act won for him the Military Medal although he had --- ----- did along with three others for bravery at LeBois-selle on the Somme on July 5th. The ribbon was pinned on Norman's breast on parade by Brigadier General Eden. Norman was made a Lance Corporal in October 1916, he had refused the stripe on many a time before.

Later June 27th 1917

Norman was killed in action on March 5 1917 by a German Shell, he was killed in the captured German front line on Boucharaines Ridge not far from St Pierre Vaast  Wood about four miles from Peronne.

Loved in Life and Remembered in Death.

{Norman died in Pallas Trench and was buried in Bouchavesnes-Bergen Battlefield Cemetery. The cemetery was later destroyed by shellfire. The nearest cemetery today is at Rancourt. It is therefore possible that Norman lies in an 'Unknown Soldier' grave in this cemetery. This part of the line had been held obstinately for so long by the enemy but it was taken on 14/3/1917)}

Norman to his Father. I believe this may be one of his first letters and written between March and April 1915

No date -

Dear Father

Just a line or two to let you know I am going on all tight and hope you are the same. It is not bad living over here only the food is a change from that at home. we get plenty but of course it is not (word crossed out by censor but is 'quality'). Am writing this while in my second turn in the trenches. these trenches are nice and comfy. I think those fellows who have been out here all the winter ought to have a V C each it must have been awfull when the trenches were half full of water. if you havent already sent  a parcel when you get this send a tin of cocoa & one of condensed milk when you send it but if you have sent it don't bother for a while.  Perhaps you have heard that I saw the sixth Batt out here I saw Gross, Redfern,  J Sykes and B Broughton from Barlboro Green and plenty more of them. There is really nothing to bother about out here so far although one or two get knocked over. The worst part about it is going in and coming out of the trenches when we have no cover the shots do whistle round then still I am rather enjoying the novelty of it so far. I will close now with love to all at home.

From Your

Loving Son Norman

Tell George I will write him a letter when I get out of the trenches next time

(Note - The 6th Bn arrived in France on 25/2/1915.  Redfern J T was killed in action on 15 August 1915)

 

8.4.15

Dear Ron

Hope this letter reaches you as it leaves me, in the pink.  Don't smash up your new bike before I get home again, I want to test it  a bit. Then I will get one and George you and I can go some fine rides.   The  roads round here are level no hills at all but the roads are worse than "Clowne Lane".  But I expect the transport have knocked a few holes in the roads. You should see some of the transport, miles of it. I have seen some Indians they are fine looking fellows a lot of them wear beards. I'll bet it has been cold for them this winter. Shall be going in the trenches again in  a day or two. it has been wet here this time out so I expect they will be like dykes. It is worst coming out of trenches more dangerous I mean when we go out for rations or something like that, the bullets dont half whistle around.  One will whistle past your head and plough into a tree it makes you duck for the first time or two.  Its hard lines on some poor chaps who come out & the first day the (y) get knocked out.  In some places the trenches are only 40 yards apart.  Its not safe then to have your head above the trench top for long or else you will get  a chip knocked off.  You should see a shell hit  a house  my word it does blow the bricks about and when the smoke has cleared away you cant see many houses left. Have never had one dropped against me had one , one day about 30 yds away I did jump  you can hear the Jack Johnsons whistling has they pass over head  We had a bit of a concern on Monday. Well old chap I will close now with love to all

From your loving

Brother

Norman.

3 May 1915 - Somewhere in France

Dear Dad

I received your letter along with the parcel on the First of May it was dated 22 nd but you see I did not get it as soon as I should have done because we did not come out of the trenches until 30th so it had been waiting at bit as we do not get letters in the trenches have to wait till we go into billets. I was not in the engagement at hill 60 it is a good way from where we are. yes I see S Mallinder did you say his father had a paper from his officer praising his conduct at the battle of Neuve Chappel perhaps it was a printed form they dished out to the troop at that time praising  the conduct of our Brigade  On the quiet  he was not in action at Neuve Chappele he was one of some reinforcements who could not get up to the front for heavy shell fire, (S Mallinder - 1st Bn SF - Killed in Action 9/5/1915)  I am a long way from where J Gross is I think about 8 miles yes I am in the same compy (company) as W Chambers. There is a lad here who as the address of the chap who took our photos. I will look ........( Unfortunately the rest of this letter is missing)

16 June 1915 - To Ron from Norman - Somewhere in France

Dear Ron

I hope you are a lot better when you get this  sorry to hear you are bad at all.  

I am enjoying the best of health and the weather is climbing   if you had your bike over here you could go some champion spins  The roads have no hills on them at all  the country is as level as a ...... (censor !!) as far as one can see  some roads are a bit knocked about by shells big holes dug in them  Where the Germans have been trying to catch transport ammunition columns etc  They generally shell the roads 

I see they are nearly through the Dardanells  I should think they will be through in another month (sadly not)  The French seem to be doing a bit now have not encountered any of the Germans gas yet and dont want to  They will not get many successes with it now as we are prepared for it they have been repulsed with heavy losses once or twice when they advanced after sending the gas.  (Gas was first used at 2nd Ypres April 1915)  I saw quite a lot of Indian Troops last time in trenches they were next to us they are fine looking fellows

The Ghurkas look more like chinamen when you look at their eyes they slant just like a Chinamans I will close now with love to all from your

Loving Brother

Norman.

 

June 18th (no year given) To his Brother Ron

Dear Ron

Just a few lines to let you know I received your letter yesterday  Yes I got your pcl (parcel) all right both of them in fact & thanks very much for them.

Please do not send any more

I cant have you spending all your on me its not fair   Please send me one of those photos of myself just shove it in an envelope & send it as soon as you can

I am still in the best of health & hope you are the same  Will close now with best wished from your

Affectionate Brother

Norman

 

Sept 5 1915 - Norman to his Dad

Dear Dad

Just a few lines to let you know Iam still in the best of health & I sincerely hope you are the same.  Thanks very much for the parcel the Batteries were all right that one you sent in the parcel before this was & still is a good one.  The Ever ready it is  The weather (h) as not been very nice the last day or two it has been raining a lot but it is picking up a bit now.  We are still in billets have been out of the trenches about 2 weeks now but we shall soon be going in I expect it has been a very long rest this time out It is all right you talking about you digging yourself in you wouldnt have me be in a hole all day would you when my mates were in a trench   I should soon have  a nice reputation You want me to be a good soldier as anybody elses boy dont you  I have earned a reputation of not being frightened and I will stick to it

I have seen and heard enough of them who do keep in a dug out all day the sneers and gibes they get but you may be sure I will look after myself to the best of my ability & not risk my life more than is necessary for I want to get back home and tell you my experiences in France

I am getting on all right with the French Language  I can converse with them very nicely what with what they know of English & what I know of French I can  make them understand anything  Sorry you were not able to send that Red Cross book it will be very usefull  what do you do in the Home Guards havent you got a stripe yet.  I should like to see you in the trenches shall be pleased  to see nay Clowne chaps out here it would be nice to see them   I suppose they will form them into a navvies Battalion & they would work in a line that is going to be fixture, say for next winter.  How do you mean you are coming in an Hospital in France  no civilians are allowed to walk about after certain hours and past certain places so you would have  a nice job on.  Yes we can use English money in France but not notes or orders  of course we get paid in French money but there is a lot of English money in circulation but dont you get sending money out here if you cant afford it as anything I want to send home I will pay for it Ill bet living is dear enough in England without you sending money out here or just cant you spend your money in the shortened hours now   Well I will close now with Love to all

From your

Loving Son

Norman XXXXX

I got mothers letter all right I will write back in a day or two.

 

Sept 6th 1915 - Norman to his Father (Interesting that on 5th he calls him Dad and 6th Father)

Dear Father

Thanks very much for the parcel which I got the day before yesterday  Some of the medical orderlies here say that the book you sent me is the nicest they have seen  There are a lot of bandages in that I have never seen before  We did not see very much of the last battle we werent in a charge or anything like that but we were in the trenches all the time our artillery was bombarding you could not see their (The Germans( line for dust & smoke while our chaps were pelting them  They lost an awfull lot of men according to men who were in the charge   We are superior to them any time now in the matter of artillery & say next spring we shall be able to push them back easily enough   I should think we shall be quiet all the winter now as it will be too wet to move guns etc

One can quite understand how winter stops an advance we have a job to move ourselves never mind anything else when it had been raining heavy   Was sorry to hear about so many Clowne chaps having gone under  It is hard on their parents

I saw Horace Hibbard of Clowne during the bombardment & I saw A Bagshaw of Barlboro Common yesterday he only had time to shout Hello Norman has he was marching past  I was looking through the billet window

Well I will close now with love to all & I hope this finds you in the best of health as it leaves

Your Loving

Son

Norman XXXXX

PS  

I should like to see some of the miners out here

Those who have volunteered to come digging etc

(Normans Division where in the Bois Grenier area near Loos)

 

Sept 6 - To Ron from Norman (again no year but he again mentions Rons bike so probably 1915)

Dear Ron

Am sending you a bit of a souvenir from the front  I wish I could send you some more but I cant but I will try to get something home by a chap I know who is shortly going on leave I will let him post them in England

It is a German bullet I am sending you it had got twisted about by going through the parapet (sandbags)

You can have a pin soldered on to the back of it & it will make a nice little souvenir then  Polish it up a bit

I am still in the best of health & I hope you are the same I got the parcel all right it was a very nice one   Thanks very much for the heather  do you ride about on the bike much now  I expect it will soon be to muddy for doing much riding

Well I will close now with Love to all

From your

affectionate Brother

Norman

Remember me to L W

Tell Doll I will write her

x G B soon  N

 

Sept 27th From Norman to his Father. (This must be 1915 as he mentions some good news - The Battle of Loos began 25th Sept 1915 and to start it was good news)

Dear Father

Just a few lines to let you know I am in the best of health & I sincerely hope you are the same  The weather has been a bit unsettled here this last day or two but it is a lot better to-day   I expect you will see some good news in the papers by the time you get this for we have been giving the Germans some stick all along the line  our part in it was not attended by much losses as we were not in the actual attack  I got Georges letter all right  tell him I will write him soon   he said you were sending a pcl (parcel) soon  if you have not sent it when you receive this please put a writing block in it

I think we can beat the Germans now any time those in power like to try it

Things must be getting in working order now as regards guns & ammunition for them.

Excuse the short letter  will write a longer one in a short while  give my love to all

From your

Loving son

Norman XXXXX

            XXXXX

Received your letter will write again in a day or two

 

Letter dated 18th from Norman to Dad ( I think possibly late 1915)

Dear Dad

Thank's for your letter which I received about a couple of days ago  am still in the best of health & hope you are the same

We get plenty of pants and shirts here but no under-shirts & I should like one, we are all having long thigh gum-boots those wader affair's   I havent got  a pair yet but shall have before long & we dont get so many socks.  In time we shall get a goat skin coat affair or I should like you to buy me a cardigan but dont bother now for we most likely  shall have them before long some have them now  It is raining at present we are in the trenches am writing this in the dug-out so am out of it as regards that hat you were talking about   we have a rubber thing to clip over our service caps with flaps on.  If the war lasts till about the summer of 1917 you will just about be in training then  What does mother think about George joining  I expect she was cut up well he has done the write thing she ought to feel proud of him  I told him to join the R.G.A or some such ..... when he told me he was going to join they have an easier time out here than an infantry mob. Well I will close now with Love to all  From your

Loving Son

Norman XXXXXX

 

To his Brother with no date but his brother mentioned the leave in January -February 1916.  This letter must have been written just after that as the Battalion moved down the line from Armentieres. Probably around the middle of February 1916.

Dear Ronald

Here is the answer to your letter which I got about five days ago   I am still in the pink & hope you are all the same.  W Chambers had been hit with bits from a shell & is probably in England now.  I think the Germans have got some new big guns up for they have been chucking great big shells about all over the place killing civvies & soldiers alike without 'disregard'?

action that was how Chambers was hit he was (hit while having his tea on Sunday last the same shell killed one & wounded six others.  We are still in the same old place Armentieres we were while the shelling was on.

We are now near a place called Sailly you will see it on the map I left on Sunday we move down to Steenwerck for two days & then back to Hazebrouck for the long promised rest it will be the middle of April before I get back in the firing line again unless something unusual occurs.  I have been in the trench once since I came back off leave.  your last letter was a real begging one if I have to buy all you sent for goodness knows how I shall live  , everybody wants silk cards.  I have got you some Belgian coins.  I had more but one day I was skint & had to spend them  , shall be sending them on shortly.

Tell Annie I shall be writing her soon also Father.  Have not heard from George yet tell Doris to tell that girl at Nelmes that I did not get her photo and should like to have it as soon as she can send it.

Well I will close now hoping this letter will reach you

From Your/Loving Brother

Norman.

 One page from Norman to his Father - He mentions Walter Chambers, so must come just after his letter to Ron above.

It must be after 9 August 1916 when Norman won his Military Medal

I received the registered letter all right thanks very much for it.  Dont think because Ive got a medal Ive been running my head into unnecessary danger. In the words of some poet or other

Not once or twice in our fair Islands story

The path of duty's been the way to glory.

Do you think Walter Chambers is fit to come out yet or do you think he will get home service

Well I will close with love to All From your

Affectionate Son

Norman XXXXX

 Letter from Norman to his Dad - Late August - September 1916 - He mentions the walnuts and fruit not being ripe yet.

Dear Dad

Just a few lines to let you know I am still in the pink   and hope you are the same  I have not sent any souvenirs because last time our Batt went in trenches our Company was in reserve so I did not have nay chance of picking anything up   We shall be in again in a day or two however and then I will send you something  We have had a bit of rain this last week but it is hot enough now  There is plenty of fruit grown about here but it is not ripe yet  plenty of walnuts pears apples & plums  The cherries are over now but there were plenty a month ago  There is nothing exciting about here just now  When you send another parcel please send a refill for that pocket lamp as the one you sent before was nearly run down when I got it. I dont know how but it was  I enjoyed the Lobster very much  I dont think it will be long before the Kaiser packs up he cant stick it much longer his money wont last  I think he will make another big dash and if it fails which it will do   he will give in at any rate I think I shall be home for Christmas    Well I will close now with love to all from your loving Son

Norman XXXXXX

Tell mother I will write in a day or two

 

Letter from Norman to Ron dated Nov 4th and must be 1916.

Nov 4th

Dear Ron

Just a few lines to let you know I am in the best of health and hope you are the same.  We are having pretty rotten weather now lots of rain so you can guess there's lots of mud and water in the trenches

I have been made a lance corporal this last week " my goodness" what giddy heights we do aspire to.

I dont suppose I shall get a leave before the same time as I did my last so dont get too expectant just yet

I saw a chap who comes from Clown his name is Squires  I expect Dad knows him he used to work down 101s (101s - a reference to a particular area of Clowne Pit)

I have not heard from you lately so lets be having one 

have you started courting or what

Well I will close now am going to write you a longer letter after a while

With Love to all

From your

Loving Brother

Norman

 

Normans last letter to his Father was dated Feb, March 1 (1917)

Feb

March 1

Dear Dad

Just a line or two to let you know I am still in the best of health & hope you are all the same at home

It seems to be expected generally that the war will finish this year doesnt it  People expect big things to happen soon & I myself think that we shall make a lot better show than we did last year  And I can appreciate the bit we did then, if one has walked it a time or two in full marching order on a wet & dark night well it seems a big territorial gain then  I cant see any hope of getting a leave just yet for I expect things will begin to hum soon and furlough's will be a thing of the past and a pleasant dream of the future.  We are having some nice weather at present & the effects of the sharp spell are passing away nicely enough

Well I will close now give my love to mother

From your

Loving Son

Norman 

XXXXXX

 

Sadly Norman would never fulfill his dream of the future and go on leave again.

 

 

Below is one page written just after Norman's death.  45 men were killed on 4th March 1917 (although many have 5th as date of death). Others would die of wounds later.   No doubt written by a friend of Norman's to his family.

page 5

who relieved C Coy may not have had time to bury the dead & may have left it to a pioneer Batt, it was a Coy of the 2nd East Lancs that relieved the Sherwoods (Same Brigade).  If I had been in C Coy I should have seen him buried & his grave marked, but my present employment kept me at the Batt Aid Post 3/4 of a mile away from the line & I did not get the news until several hours later & the Coy had been relieved. Seven days later I visited the vicinity & I could not find any of the graves marked, but all the bodies had been buried. I am sorry to say that of the three survivors  of C Coys stretcher bearers who survived the action of March 4th two of them have been recently killed in action & the other one he knows nothing of Norman for he was working with the right & besides he was new to the job for he took my place in C Coy when I left on Feb 12th. Norman personal possessions were handed to the Coy Sergeant Major, his address ..... (Here the letter ends)

 

We Will Remember Them

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing

Steve Morse 2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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